Everything I Wish I Had Known About Parenting Two Under Two
Before we had our second baby, just 19 months after our first, I knew it was going to be tough. I had seen enough wide-eyed looks when we mentioned how far apart in age our two kids would be to know it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake!
But whether you consciously decide to have two under two, or it’s a surprise, I promise it won’t be the end of the world, and there are so many benefits to having two so close in age – just one being that they eventually become each other’s best friend and built in playmate!
If you’re still on the fence about having two babies close together, here are the biggest lessons I learned about life with, and about parenting, two under two.
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You Won’t Always Feel Like You Have Enough Time for Both, and That’s OK.
Divide and conquer. Push the mom guilt aside, and don’t drive yourself crazy trying to give equal attention to both babies. Life with a newborn and a toddler can be especially busy, so make a plan with your partner.
We opted to have my husband put about 95% of his attention towards our son, and I stayed mostly with our daughter since I was exclusively breastfeeding.
Helping the older sibling adjust is huge. My husband doted on our son, gave him his full attention, took him to the park everyday, and on and on. It worked. I was able to get into a rhythm with our daughter, while he helped our son adjust to having a new little person in the house and not feel neglected.
If your eldest is really attached to you and not taking the lack of attention well, break out the bottles, and have your partner help with feedings. Also, carve out some time in the day where you spend time one on one with just your older baby.
Having a Sleep Plan Is Really Important, But Be Flexible
If you have two under two, I highly recommend writing out an (ideal) daily sleep and feeding schedule for both of them.
Your newborn will be taking 4-5 naps a day in the beginning, and if you can figure out a way for at least one of those to align with your toddler’s nap, that’s a big win. Having a little me-time is key to surviving those first few weeks of newborn and toddler life.
Once our second baby turned one, we also pushed her a little bit faster than our son to go to one nap, so that they could nap at the same time.
This made life infinitely easier for us since we could go out during the day without worrying about naps for our youngest, and it also allowed for at least a two hour block in the middle of the day to get things done.
Babies are adaptable, especially if the change is gradual.
Figure Out How You Will Entertain Your Toddler During Feedings
If you’re going to be on your own with your toddler and newborn, feedings can be one of the most nerve-wracking times. Being tied down to your newborn and having a toddler running freely is…well it can be enough to drive most moms a little crazy. So how are you going to handle this?
We were lucky that our toddler was totally happy to play with his toys during feedings, but my backup was definitely a little educational TV time.
I am not a big fan of screen time in general, and we really try to limit it in our house, but when you have two very small kids, it can be really helpful.
Rule #1 of two under two? Give yourself a break.
Other options? Keep a hidden stash of new toys, or cycle toys in and out so that they seem new, and give those as a distraction. And make sure your house is babyproofed so that they can roam somewhat freely without you worrying too much.
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Your Toddler May Be Jealous of the New Baby, But They May Also LOVE Them
It is absolutely possible and natural that your older baby will be jealous of their new sibling. Here are some ways to combat this.
- Read books to them about new babies, before their new sibling arrives (this one, and this one get amazing reviews)
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the baby! Tell them what’s coming. They may not seem like they care or are paying attention, but I underestimate my kids a lot and am always surprised by how much they are paying attention, and how much they really do understand.
- Get them a baby doll to “take care of.” Tell them that this baby will be like their little sister or brother and have them practice being gentle and sharing with the doll.
- Have one parent ready to devote most of their time to your first baby (see the first point on this list!)
- Carve out a little bit of time each day to spend with your oldest, even if it’s just 15 minutes of playing with them one on one, or reading a book. Make a big deal out of your special time together! If you’re able to, doing an activity like Gymboree once a week with just your toddler is a great opportunity for one on one time.
- Stay patient, and remember that this is a huge change for them too. It’s normal for a life change (of any type) to cause behaviorial issues, so try to keep that in the back of your mind when they’re screaming on the floor for seemingly no reason.
On the flip side, to our major surprise, our son never went through a jealousy phase of little sister.
When he met baby sis for the first time, he spent about 5 minutes laughing and staring at her. And if you look at it from his perspective, it totally makes sense that he was happy — there was finally another tiny person like him in the house, and a built-in friend!
They’re now three and almost two years old, and though there are definitely a lot of fights and disagreements, they are 100% each other’s best friend.
So the moral of the story? The tough phases will end, and they will love having someone their age around 24/7.
It’s Totally Possible to Get Pregnant Quickly After Your First
If you’re crazy like my husband and I, you may actually be trying to have a second baby fairly soon after your first.
For me, I knew I wanted to have mine close in age, but I also didn’t get pregnant easily with my first, and worried that my increasing age would only make it more difficult to get pregnant.
So if you want to try soon after, it can work. However, there’s a few things to keep in mind:
Breastfeeding can make it harder to get pregnant.
I am not a medical professional, but from my research when we were trying for baby #2, I found that breastfeeding hormones can cause your cycle to remain a little out of whack and suppress ovulation, which can obviously make it harder to conceive. You can read a lot more about that here.
I personally didn’t get pregnant again until I stopped breastfeeding, but we were naturally at the end of our breastfeeding journey, so it felt like the right time. But don’t be too discouraged if you aren’t quite ready to quit breastfeeding — though chances can be lower, it is absolutely possible to still get pregnant.
Talk to your doctor to find out if there’s any health related reasons to wait.
As always, make sure you talk to your OB/GYN about any risks there may be in having two babies close together.
Our bodies are pretty incredible, but it does still take awhile for them to heal from the major event that is childbirth, so make sure there’s nothing specific to your situation that could make having a second soon after dangerous for either you or your baby to be.
Turn On Any Type A Personality You May Have Hidden, and Get Organized
I am naturally an over-organized person who loves planning, but it is still hard for me to manage two tiny humans. One thing that helps is trying to plan as much as possible ahead of time.
Once your two under two are a little older and eating table food, plan out meals.
Breakfast? Keep it simple with fruit and one-minute oatmeal, or toast and eggs.
Do leftovers from dinner for lunch, and plan out your dinners for the week on Sunday nights. Instapots are all the rage (and I’m really wishing I had one right now during this never-ending quarantine!), so consider investing in one to make meal planning – and life – easier.
Lay out clothes for preschool the night before, or organize their closets so that it’s simple to find their clothes for the next day. Consider taking your showers at night, and/or lay out your clothes for the next day the night before as well.
Create a routine for your kids, so that they know what to expect everyday. Mine definitely still fight me before naptime, and they never want to brush their teeth first thing in the morning, but they at least aren’t thrown off or surprised by what I’m asking them to do, and that makes the battles much shorter.
Having Two Very Young Kids Is Hard
The reality is, having two young kids is really hard. They require a ton of attention, care, patience, and energy, and if you’re anything like me, there are many times where you’ll feel overwhelmed by everything.
Go in with expectations that it won’t be easy, but that it will be ok, and the hardest times will pass. And most importantly, if you can, enlist some help.
Can you be closer to grandparents? Are you able to afford a nanny or a mother’s helper at least part time? Any help that you can get is great, so don’t be shy about asking, or accepting it when offered.
We are far from family, but lucky enough to live in a place with insanely affordable childcare, and that has been a complete game changer. So if you are thinking about having two under two, really consider what you will do for help, especially in the beginning.
Will you or your partner stay home full time? If you do, who will help you after maternity or paternity leave is over? How often? Do you need to pay them? Try to prepare as much as you can, and figure out if the situation will be manageable.
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Don’t Stress About What’s (Maybe) To Come
I spent quite a bit of time towards the end of my second pregnancy lamenting the loss of one-on-one time with my oldest. He was still such a baby, and I worried he would be missing out on attention and his time as the only child.
In the end, my worries were really unfounded. One big benefit of having two under two and babies so close in age, is that my eldest didn’t even really notice the change. He doesn’t remember life without his little sister around, and has no idea what to miss.
I also worried about being able to spend time with both, or not treating them equally. In the end, I always have to remind myself that my kids are completely different people, and my expectations can’t fairly be the same for both of them, and that’s ok.
And though it seems impossible, you will absolutely have room in your heart to love them both, beyond reason.
Do you have two under two? How have you managed?
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